The monasteries we visited

Thank you! To everyone who attended our summer series of virtual visits to monasteries; to our wonderful speakers who shared their experiences so freely; to those who generously donated; and to those who have watched the recordings of the sessions they could not attend (available here). With a top-up donation from the Fellowship, each monastery we featured will receive £425 towards their life and work.

And thank you to everyone who completed our feedback questionnaire. There was a clear wish to have some more sessions that people could join. We are currently working on the precise programme, but here is advance notice that we will be holding a winter series of virtual visits to saints and holy places. Look out for more details and registration on the website!

As we face changing restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, please remember we have some resources collected together for you. If have something you would like us to add to the list, let us know in the comments!

Lebanon and the monastic revival

In our final virtual visit, this week we will be considering the monastic revival in Lebanon in two locations, Kaftoun and Hamatoura. Our guide will be Amal Morcos who wrote her Master’s Thesis on the revival of monasticism in the Church of Antioch.

Thursday 3 September, 19:00 BST (7pm UK time).*

Register for Zoom details (if you have not done so already) on our dedicated web page, which also has links to the recordings of previous sessions.

Come and See!

* Time zones: For those joining from the US: 2pm EDT; 1pm CDT; 12pm MDT; 11am PDT. Check out the time zone converter if you need it.

Monasticism in the New World!

In this week’s virtual visit, we will be guided around Transfiguration Monastery, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, USA. And even though it will be geographically placed in the New World, there are links back to Europe. Well-known in the US, the monastery deserves to be better known in the UK! Mother Seraphima, choir director at the monastery, will be our guide.

Come and join us on Thursday 27 August, 19:00 BST (7pm UK time)!*

Register for Zoom details (if you have not done so already) on our dedicated web page, which also has links to the recordings of previous sessions.

* Time zones: For those joining from the US: 2pm EDT; 1pm CDT; 12pm MDT; 11am PDT. Check out the time zone converter if you need it.

Autumn colours at Transfiguration Monastery

Meet the Optina Elders

We are halfway through our virtual visits to monasteries and this week will be guided through the spirituality and history of Optina monastery in Russia by Dr Anna Rogozhina. Our visit will be on Thursday 20 August at 19:00 BST (7pm, London time). Join us!

If you have not already registered for the series, send your name and email address via the page below and you will be sent the Zoom details for the session. Recordings of previous sessions are also linked from this page: https://forerunner.org.uk/summer-series-2020/.

Skete of the Forerunner, Optina

O Lord, grant me to meet everything that this coming day may bring me with spiritual peace. Grant me to surrender myself gladly to Thy holy will. In every hour of this day, support me in all my undertakings. Teach me to accept whatever news I may receive in the course of the day with peace of soul and with the firm conviction that Thy holy will is in all things. In all my words and actions, direct my thoughts, feelings and senses. In all unforeseen events, grant me not to forget that everything is sent by Thee. Teach me to act frankly and reasonably with everyone I meet, that none may be disturbed or embittered. O Lord, give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day and all that may happen in the course of the day. Guide my will, and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive and to love. Amen

Morning prayer of the Optina Elders

What are you up to on Thursday?

This is a reminder that we are in the middle of our six virtual visits to monasteries around the world, taking place on Zoom each Thursday evening at 19:00 (7pm UK time).

To get the login details if you have not done so already, please register on our dedicated page. You will also find links to recordings of the sessions there (some have been edited).

We still have some great places to visit:

  • 13 August: Putna Monastery, Romania
  • 20 August: Optina Monastery, Russia
  • 27 August: Transfiguration Monastery, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, USA
  • 3 September: Kaftoun and Hamatoura Monasteries, Lebanon

Come and see!

Photo by Geboiu Dumitru Mihai, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

Visit monasteries virtually with us!

Last week the Fellowship’s summer series of virtual visits to monasteries began with a session on Holy Dormition St Nicholas-St Basil Monastery in Nikolskoe, Donetsk Region in Ukraine.

This week on Thursday 6 August, join professional storyteller Anna Conomos for a visit to Annunciation Monastery, Ormylia, Greece. Discover for yourself why this place is so special by attending: register for Zoom details on our dedicated page.

If you cannot join us on the day, we hope to post a recording shortly after the session. Come and see!

Countdown to monastic visits!

Just under one week to go until the Fellowship’s series of virtual visits to monasteries in six different countries!

Our full schedule is now confirmed, happening each Thursday at 19:00 BST (London time):

  • 30 July: Holy Dormition St Nicholas St Basil, Ukraine
  • 6 August: Annunciation, Ormylia, Greece
  • 13 August: Putna, Romania
  • 20 August: Optina, Russia
  • 27 August: Transfiguration, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, USA
  • 3 September: Kaftoun and Hamatoura, Lebanon

Sign up for the Zoom details on our dedicated page: https://forerunner.org.uk/summer-series-2020/

Come and see!

Online series on monasteries

Since we have not been able to hold our usual summer conference, the Fellowship committee have planned a six week series of presentations about different monasteries around the world. We are so excited to share the history, spiritual life and the work of these wonderful, holy places!

These will be held on Thursday evenings at 19:00 BST (London time), 30 July-3 September on Zoom, and if you can’t make the date for any reason, we hope to eventually make recordings available on the website.

If you would like to attend these sessions, please register on our dedicated page. Come and see!

And don’t forget that we also have a page with other resources, including spiritual talks and live streamed services.

Online conference for Orthodox musicians

Fellowship Chairman Margaret Haig attended the virtual conference co-hosted by the International Society for Orthodox Church Music (ISOCM) and St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. It was creative, thought-provoking, spiritual, practical, and fun! Personal reflections will appear in Forerunner in due course.

Press Release

Yonkers, NY – Over 200 church musicians from Europe, Australia, and North America gathered in online presentations and discussions exploring the theme of “Music as Liturgy.” The 3-day event was co-hosted by the International Society for Orthodox Church Music (ISOCM) and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVS).

As choirs and churches around the globe face the uncertainty of how to remain physically safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants at the 2020 Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium looked at the question of how clergy, faithful, and in particular singers and chanters “do the liturgy.”

“I have never taken part in a music event outside of my parish before now, so the Introduction to Liturgical Conducting Masterclass has given me confidence to conduct when our two choir directors are not available,” said David Galloway of St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church, Greenville, SC, “I have made connections with many Orthodox conductors and music educators to help me learn even more.”

The work of church musicians has become particularly difficult in 2020 with the pandemic restricting both the method and number of church musicians who can sing responses during liturgical services. One of the most attended sessions during this year’s Symposium explored ways to move forward in a post-pandemic world.

“While many of our churches and schools have been partially or completely closed, the pandemic is challenging us to find ways to pray and make music while also taking care of one another,” according to Robin Freeman, Director of Music, St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and member of the Symposium organizing committee. “This online Symposium highlighted for many of us the growing possibilities of technology for teaching, learning, and making music together.”

While participants were unable to gather in person to celebrate the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy, this year’s event featured masterclasses on 8 different topics to develop skillsets in advance of a return to the kliros and choir lofts in their home parishes.

Coursework, led by Dr. Peter Jermihov, Chicago, IL, Dr. Tamara Petijevic, Novi Sad, Serbia, John Boyer, Portland, OR, and Nazo Zakkak, San Diego, CA, and others explored conducting at varying levels of experience, vocal technique, Byzantine chant, composition, and engaging young people with church music.

The conference addressed both the spiritual and technical issues that we face as church musicians.,” said Ruth Rutledge, head chanter at St Barnabas Orthodox Church, Costa Mesa, CA, adding, “The spirit of charity and genuine care was very evident among all the speakers who were of the highest caliber and professional excellence. It was a beautiful, profound, and practical three days of education and time to contemplate the larger perspective of our work in the church.”

Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey of Brown University offered a keynote presentation titled “Ancient Models from Ancient Syriac Christianity” wherein she explored how musical traditions were shaped by liturgical experience and are carried forward into today’s worship among Syriac Christians.

Other presentations included “The Rites of Hagia Sophia” by Dr. Alexander Lingas of City, University of London; a piano performance by Dr. Paul Barnes, “A Bright Sadness,” featuring original piano selections written by Victoria Bond, David von Kampen, Philip Glass and Father Ivan Moody, inspired by Orthodox chant, and a second keynote presentation by Protopresbyter Ivan Moody exploring the theme in reverse, “Liturgy as Music.”

This year’s Symposium was dedicated to the life and work of the Archpriest Sergei Glagolev, the noted priest and musician who led efforts beginning in the 1950s to exclusively use English throughout the church year. A commemorative video was shown (https://youtu.be/xTPmf96wYV0) and Father Sergei offered greetings to attendees during a special live session at this year’s event.

“It would be difficult to imagine a more successful Symposium, and the extraordinary fact of its occurring in the present challenging circumstances seems only to have made participants the more inspired,” said Father Ivan, chairman of the ISOCM. He added, “it is to be hoped that this pan-jurisdictional event will inspire further work that brings people together in this way – one of the central aims of ISOCM – working for the glory of God.”

With a record number of participants attending this year’s Symposium, representing nearly every Orthodox jurisdiction in North America across 39 states, and attending from 12 countries, organizers expect future events will be considered in the coming months.

Encouraged by the positive engagement by participants, organizers suggested an openness to new, positive possibilities, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us, guiding our efforts to be more attuned to each other – musically and personally – with hope in God blessing our effort in building up the universal Church through sacred liturgical music.

Presentations and Addresses from the Symposium will be included in a future edition of the ISOCM’s online Journal: https://journal.fi/jisocm/index

The ISOCM is already preparing for its Ninth International Conference on Orthodox Church Music in Joensuu, Finland, 7–13 June 2021, exploring the theme of “Church Music and Topography: City, Village, and Monastery.”

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About the International Society for Orthodox Church Music

Founded in 2005, the ISOCM seeks to provide an open platform for musicians, musicologists, singers, and composers that encourages dialogue, the exchange of information and ideas, and inspires cooperation. The Society sees the promotion of communication between East and West as one of its priorities and hosts biannual conferences, at the University of Eastern Finland on its Joensuu campus. The Society also hosts regional symposia and gatherings elsewhere throughout the world to help create opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of knowledge in the field of Orthodox liturgical music.

For more information about the ISOCM, visit: www.isocm.com

About St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary serves Christ, his Church, and the world through Orthodox Christian theological education, research, and scholarship, and the promotion of inter-Orthodox cooperation. The pan-Orthodox graduate school of theology within the canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is located in New York’s Westchester County. The Seminary’s programs are registered by the New York State Education Department and are accredited nationally by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The Seminary grants the degrees of Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), Master of Theology (Th.M.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.), and Master of Arts (M.A.). The seminary’s Institute of Sacred Arts www.instituteofsacredarts.com makes events like the Symposium possible for the general public.

For more information about the Seminary, visit: www.svots.edu

Fellowship news: resources for you

Fellowship activities have been affected like everyone else in this time of uncertainty. We have compiled a list of resources for your use: live streamed services, talks and sermons, other information and even events. Please take a look and we hope this will be helpful. It is not an exhaustive list so you can make suggestions for additions by emailing us.

We have limited stock remaining of our 2020 Calendar and Lectionary, now reduced to £4 per copy including postage. While you are at home, this might be a useful resource to keep up with daily readings, if you do not have other means. You can ask for a copy via the contact form on our calendar page.

We are also thinking about future Fellowship events. There will be no summer conference this year, and how we hold events over the next months and years may need to be different. For example, our popular annual Youth Festival was due to be the usual residential event at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, the place where St Cedd built a monastery. The youth committee was able to change the format to an online conference, with more people able to participate than ever: UK, France, Germany, Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Australia, USA, Georgia, Romania, Russia and more. It may be that the Festival and other events continue to incorporate an online element, even when we can meet in person again.

God bless you and keep you in these testing times.

God permits tribulations and adversities to befall people – even the saintly – so that they may persist in humility. But if we harden our hearts against adversities and tribulations, he also hardens these tribulations against us. On the other hand, if we accept them in humility and with a contrite heart, God will mingle tribulation with mercy.

St Isaac the Syrian
Fresco of St John the Baptist, Optina Monastery, Russia